Art beat // ‘Conjured Memories’

A psychological narrative writ large

STEVENS SQUARE — Growing up in Fayetteville, N.C., the artist J.M. Culver was never far from her grandfather.

After living just down the street, Culver and her parents moved into her grandparents’ house to care for the aging couple when she was 7 or 8 years old. Her grandfather, diagnosed as a teen with schizophrenia, died less than 10 years later of lung cancer.

Still, that period made a deep impression on Culver, and she continues to explore those memories through her artwork, wall-sized charcoal and acrylic drawings that transmit a wary, anxious energy.

“I’ve read a lot about schizophrenia as I’ve gotten older,” Culver said. “I look back on it an understand it, but at the time there was a lot of confusion.”

As a little girl, Culver watched her grandfather transition between a medicated, affectless state and occasional bouts of paranoia or delusion. In a series of her drawings on display at Stevens Square Center for the Arts, he often seems lost or distant, zagging between wild-eyed intensity and childlike calm.

Culver is the second figure in the life-sized drawings, the little girl reaching toward the older man or tugging at the hem of his hospital gown.

A Minneapolis College of Art and Design graduate, Culver expressed a strong interest in figurative art. Here, the figures emerge from acrylic-smudged backgrounds. There are few props.

“It’s more about representing the human condition” through the body, she said.

The drawings, which Culver referred to as “psychological narratives,” combine various fragments of her memories from her childhood. Creating them, off and on, over the past several years, was a kind of therapy, she said.

“This was an idea I was thinking about and thinking about for two years,” she said. “I was trying to figure out how it was going to work, and I never did a sketch or anything. And then one day I just grabbed the paper and went for it.”


Go see it

“Conjured Memories” runs through April 4 at Stevens Square Center for the Arts, 1905 3rd Ave. S. 879-0200. stevensarts.org

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Filmmakers — funny and female — wanted

Try to think of a Hollywood comedy released in the last few years that featured a predominantly female cast.

Dana Buchwald did this recently, and she came up with one: 2008’s “Baby Momma,” starring Saturday Night Live alumni Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler. It was on top of a very, very short list.

“I wanted to see more women in film comedies,” Buchwald said. “There are a lot of funny women out there and you really don’t see it that often.”

The host of “Women Stand Up! A Comedy Cabaret” at Bryant-Lake Bowl since 2006, Buchwald decided to do something about it. She’s taking submissions to the first-ever Women Stand Up and Shoot comedy film festival, and plans to screen the top 10 short films in May at Bryant-Lake Bowl.

The contest is sponsored by IFP Minnesota Center for Media Arts, based in St. Paul. Three winning films will be selected by a panel of three native comedians: Lizz Winstead, co-founder of Air America Radio and co-creator of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central; writer Mary Jo Pehl, a veteran of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”; and stand-up comic Jackie Kashian.

There are just four guidelines for submitted films: they must have a female writer or director; they must feature a female lead or leads; they must be funny (duh); and they can be no longer than 10 minutes.

“It’s a chance to get your work in front of some very influential women,” Buchwald said.


Go see it

For Women Stand Up and Shoot contest rules, eligibility guidelines and additional information, go to ifpmsp.org/womenstandup.html. The deadline for submissions is April 21.

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Children’s Theater announces 45th anniversary season

WHITTIER — Little Orphan Annie first sprung from the pen of cartoonist Harold Gray in the 1924, more than 50 years before the first chapter of her story was retold in the musical “Annie” on Broadway.

Next fall, Annie, her dog Sandy and her wealthy benefactor Daddy Warbucks come to the Children’s Theater Company stage to close the theater’s 45th anniversary season, the theater announced in March. Surprisingly, given the enduring popularity of the musical and the fact that its protagonist is a child, it will be the first-ever Children’s Theater Company staging of “Annie.”

The eight-show season opens Sept. 7 with “Dr. Seuss’ The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins,” and also will include: “Babe, The Sheep Pig”; “Barrio Grrrl!: A New Musical,” presented in partnership with the Kennedy Center; and for teens, “William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.”

Artistic Director Peter Brosius said the season combined Children’s Theater classics with exciting premiers, like “A Christmas Story.” You’ve probably seen the classic 1983 film, but “you’ve never felt it before,” Brosius said.

Meanwhile, there are still three shows left in 44th season, including “Iron Ring,” the story of young King Tamar set in ancient India. Tamar gambles away his kingdom, and must go on an epic journey to regain it.


Go see it

“Iron Ring” runs through April 10 at Children’s Theater Company, 2400 3rd Ave. S. 874-0400. childrenstheater.org
Visit the website for more information on the upcoming 45th anniversary season.